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Music Review: Fleetwood Mac – Tusk

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What do you do when you have just released one of the ten best selling albums of all time, which topped the American album chart for 31 weeks? This was the question and task that faced Fleetwood Mac when they returned to the studio during late 1978 to record their follow up album to Rumours.

The resulting Tusk would be a long and sprawling double album. It would receive some criticism at the time of its release and not have the commercial success of its predecessor. It would, however, reach number four in The United States and number one in England and sell four million copies worldwide, which would have been outstanding for almost any other band or release.

Unfortunately, it was considered a failure in many circles. In retrospect, it could not have lived up to the expectations which preceded it.

I remember being disappointed at the time of its release, but the album has grown on me as time has passed and as it escaped the Rumours shadow. Today it stands on its own as another brilliant pop/rock release by Fleetwood Mac.

If Tusk was originally one thing, it was ambitious. In many places the sound veers from the safe pop styling of their last two releases to a more adventurous rock direction.

Lindsey Buckingham wrote nine of the twenty tracks and takes the most chances musically. “Tusk” was a drum=based track featuring the USC Marching Band. It was released as the lead single, which quickly announced that this was a different Fleetwood Mac release.

While the song was one of Mick Fleetwood’s crowning achievements, his drumming is excellent throughout. Just check out “Brown Eyes” and “What Makes You Think You’re The One.” Songs such as “The Ledge,” “Not That Funny,” and “What Make’s You Think You’re The One” have a frenetic feel that was not what its fan base was expecting at the time but which seem fine today. His “Save Me A Place” returned the group to a more familiar place complete with tight harmonies.

Stevie Nicks contributed five songs that may have been her overall strongest group and were what the band’s fan base expected of her. “Sara” is one of the finest performances of her career and became a deserved hit single. The original album version was almost two minutes longer than the single and remains superior. It was written about Mick Fleetwood’s wife Sara and her effects upon the group. Its harmonies, overdubbing, and emotional vocal make it one of her better creations.

“Storms” is moody and quiet, while “Sisters Of The Moon,” and “Beautiful Child” continued to develop her mystical personality.

Christine McVie sort of put it on cruise control for this release. “Never Make Me Cry” is a nice piano-based ballad. “Honey Hi” is surrounded with beautiful harmonies. “Over & Over” may have a mournful sound but it is also well created pop.

In many ways, Tusk is the modern pop Fleetwood Mac’s most creative album. It is a release that has stood the passage of time well and bears repeated listens to be truly appreciated.

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About David Bowling

  • Funny thing – I’ve always preferred Tusk over Rumours. I didn’t like Rumours at all for about 20 years before I finally warmed up to it. Rumours was stuffed full of hits, but Tusk I thought was a better album – it had its own quirky, internal logic where all the songs supported each other.

  • Tusk has grown on me over the years and Rumours has become a little too familiar. I tend to listen to Tusk more than Rumours right now.

  • zingzing

    tusk is easily my favorite of their albums. a person i know whose musical taste i respect pushed it on me, despite my rather ignorant protests that i didn’t like fleetwood mac, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. buckingham is a genius. the songs he wrote are power-pop on a level with alex chilton at times. sometimes, i’ll just play his songs as their own little mini-album, but the stuff written by others are also pretty damn good in the larger context.

    buckingham’s stuff on its own, however, reminds me of the creative break that marked the first side of bowie’s low. short, punky and far more profound than what you think on first listen.

    i still don’t have much time for the more bluesy early stuff, and the slick california stuff of the mid period isn’t my cup of tea either, but tusk is a masterpiece. it is the standard against which i compare all other fleetwood mac, and i find the rest wanting.